Since his creation in 1897, Bram Stoker’s famed vampire Dracula has become an indelible pop culture icon, appearing in hundreds if not thousands of movies, TV shows, books, comics, games and more, sometimes treated seriously and sometimes turned into an Adam Sandler cartoon. This week’s Roundtable looks at some of our favorite treatments of the character.
One of my favorite depictions of Dracula on screen is in Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula‘. I’ve always loved the book, and this adaptation manages to convey that the story unfolds through correspondence and diary entries while keeping the action moving along. Whoever cast Tom Waits as Renfield deserves a medal of honor from Transylvania. Even with all of this, Gary Oldman outshines the rest of the film in his portrayal of the dark one. He’s dangerous. He’s seductive. He’s unhinged and yet calculated. He is exactly how I pictured Dracula himself when I was cowering under the covers, poring over the pages of the old Irish novel. I can’t say I wouldn’t swoon like Nina if Oldman’s Dracula offered me his world.
M. Enois Duarte
One of the funniest and best uses of the Dracula character is, in my book, the puppet version in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall‘. At the start of the movie, we meet Peter (Jason Segel), a hopeless and rather hapless romantic who works as a film and television composer with a dream of producing a musical version of the legendary bloodsucker. However, after his long-time girlfriend (Kristen Bell) dumps him for Russell Brand, that passion withers away and is almost forgotten, until Mila Kunis comes along and slowly reignites it. By the movie’s end, audiences are treated to a hilarious look at Peter’s vision where the characters are all played by puppets. I remember laughing so hard at that because I wasn’t expecting it, and for me, it still remains one of the best uses of Dracula.
As much as I love ‘Castlevania,’ I’m giving the nod to Mr. Burns in the ‘Treehouse of Horror IV’ episode of ‘The Simpsons’. First off, it’s an inspired parody of the ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ film, done at a time long before it was so commonplace in animation. But what makes it such a great take on the Dracula character is the way (much like in the original story) there are so many disturbing details that would seem to indicate that Burns is a vampire. When he drinks the blood and says “precious blood” where all can hear, it’s perfect. And though the “kill the head vampire” trope is no longer so frequently used, the whole plan, execution and subsequent delayed revelation that the head vampire is someone different and altogether unlikely is pretty great as well.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
There’s a long list of things that’ve gone bump in the night throughout the annals of horror cinema, and why bother choosing a favorite? ‘The Monster Squad‘ heaps together most of them in less than an hour and a half: The Mummy, the Wolf-Man, the Gill-Man, Frankenstein’s Monster, and, yes, Count Dracula himself.
Even though I’d already been well-indoctrinated into the world of horror by the tender age of 9, I believe ‘The Monster Squad’ may have been my first time ever seeing Dracula in a feature film. It’s still one of my favorite representations, with Dracula as the malevolent leader of this army of the night, scheming for no less than the end of the world as we know it.
This version is sort of a Greatest Hits of vampire lore: the ability to transform into a bat, the iconic black suit and red-lined cape, vulnerability to crucifixes and garlic, the fanged beauties that Drac surrounds himself with, squaring off against longtime nemesis Van Helsing, and his particular brand of vampiric hypnosis. His list of supernatural abilities keeps rambling on from there, from intangibility to pyrokinesis to weather manipulation. One of the most menacing monster in any kids’ movie I’ve ever come across, Dracula has an aristocratic air about him and wields more superpowers than Marvel Films’ entire 2018 slate combined. What’s not to love?
The vampire in F.W. Murnau’s silent classic ‘Nosferatu‘ was renamed Count Orlok because Murnau never officially acquired the rights to adapt Bram Stoker’s novel, but the story and the character are indisputably based on ‘Dracula’ and the plot follows the book pretty closely. Because of this, the Stoker estate sued to suppress the movie’s release and have all copies of it destroyed. Thankfully, unlike too many of its silent contemporaries, the film survived and was not lost to history. Max Schreck’s legendary portrayal of the vampire, featuring rodent-like facial features, unnaturally long fingers, and decidedly inhuman movements, is one of the most iconic screen monsters in all of cinema and remains a chilling creation nearly a century later.
Klaus Kinski put his own peculiarly eccentic spin on an already weird character in Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake, which is pretty effective as well.
What are your favorite versions of Dracula, on screen or otherwise? Tell us in the Comments.